I-TEAM UPDATE: Army moves quickly on Fort Gordon housing
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A decade-long I-TEAM investigation, thrust into the national spotlight after a hearing on Capitol Hill, is now seeing results here at home. The U.S. Army is now launching its very own investigation into military housing specifically at Fort Gordon.
For the first time since he made national headlines at a hearing about homes on post, Sen. John Ossoff returns to Fort Gordon.
His visit comes as we learn the Army has now launched its own investigation into what’s been happening at Fort Gordon.
Our Meredith Anderson was in Washington, D.C., for that hearing a few weeks ago, and this new development shows that the hearing spotlighted from our I-TEAM reporting did not fall on deaf ears.
This is likely the first step in some real forward progress. We’ve been exposing housing problems on post for years so our community knows just how frustratingly slow the government can move.
We’re now learning one day after this hearing, the Army made changes at Fort Gordon.
In more than 10 years of investigating this, we’ve never seen the Army react that quickly. This time, it could finally be different.
MORE THAN A DECADE OF I-TEAM COVERAGE:
- Families share stories on Fort Gordon housing problems
- Fort Gordon housing investigation could bring consequences
- Fort Gordon housing provider pleads guilty to fraud scheme
- How military families feel about housing settlement
- 10 years later, we hear from the private company that provides housing on Fort Gordon
- Mold, filth linger in Fort Gordon housing, investigators find
- U.S. Army kept in the dark about many issues, employee says
- Asking about Balfour Beatty complaints only raises more questions
- Some companies still fail to address safety issues in military housing
- Explaining the safety behind the Tenant Bill of Rights
- Housing company responds to allegations about drowning at Fort Gordon
- Mold, bugs, and safety issues put spotlight on housing provider
- GAO report shows much work to be done for private military housing
- Mold at Fort Gordon? Part 1 and Part 2
- Crews demolish housing unfit for Fort Gordon service members
- 8 years after reports of mold at homes, problems may still exist
On Capitol Hill and under oath, families at Fort Gordon described how mold in their home on post made their family sick.
All of this, the result of an eight-month bipartisan investigation into how the private company in charge of housing on post continued to mistreat military families, even after Balfour Beatty pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. government.
But before the senator investigated, the I-TEAM did and what we uncovered was cited multiple times in the subcommittee’s investigation.
Two weeks later, the assistant secretary of the Army for installations, Rachel Jacobson, told Congress she had already taken action.
“The day after the report was released, I wrote to Balfour Beatty indicating that I directed an immediate investigation at Fort Gordon to be overseen by the commanding general of the Army Materiel Command.”
That’s not all.
Jacobson went on to say there is now additional focus on Balfour Beatty’s finances here locally. “We are also performing an audit of Balfour Beatty’s property management at Fort Gordon, and we are suspending any requests for incentive fees at this time.”
Last December, Balfour Beatty admitted to criminal behavior where employees “manipulated and falsified” work orders to get bonus checks. The company was ordered to pay more than 65 million in fines and restitution. Still, the PSI alleges, work order problems continued.
Capt. Samuel Choe testified he reported mold problems in his Fort Gordon home but was instructed to stop entering work orders about it.
Ossoff: “So. Balfour personnel told you to cease using the online portal and instead to place those requests for help directly in person or by phone?”
Choe: “Yes, that is correct. Not just a supervisor. It was the manager of the Balfour Beatty Communities at Fort Gordon herself.” Another family submitted “Four separate repair requests about a water leak and mold growth.”
Balfour Beatty characterized the requests as “plumbing and painting” issues.
Once again, documented proof of work orders not painting an accurate picture. Assistant Secretary Jacobson says she’s asked the Army’s General Counsel to take a look at the Army’s complicated agreement with Balfour Beatty to let her know what other actions she can legally take against the company, including amending contracts when Balfour Beatty does not meet standards.
She also says if the contracts do not give the Army enough authority to step in and enforce the proper treatment of our servicemen and women, then she would get Congress involved. Some of the allegations in this report could be considered criminal, so the department of justice could still get involved as well as Congress.
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